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The answer, my friend, is basking in the sun

Joel Makower does a quick review of the growing momentum of solar power on the world market, with high-profile moves being made by Sanyo, Sharp, Kyocera, and Mitsubishi. Then he turns to the U.S. solar market, which is lagging: Reclaiming leadership in the global solar marketplace will be no mean feat. As recently as 1997, U.S. solar companies controlled 100% of the U.S. market and 40% of the global market, according to SEIA. Today, U.S. firms control only 73% and 14%, respectively. In 2003, following several years of growth, shipments from U.S. solar manufacturers actually decreased by 10%, while shipments …

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Terra Cognita

New company offers guilty motorists a way to offset emissions In what is likely to be a growing trend, a private company is stepping in to make money by offering people a concrete way to take positive action against global warming. Benven LLC runs a program called TerraPass, which emerged from a classroom project at the Wharton School of Business. TerraPass sells carbon-dioxide remediation; consumers can purchase at varying levels, based on the estimated tonnage of CO2 their vehicle produces. The money will be used to purchase (and retire) credits at the Chicago Climate Exchange, a commodities market of sorts …

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Don’t Mess With Texas — Unless You’re Buying the Hot Dogs

Texas chemical plants cause problems for nearby residents The Houston Chronicle is running an investigative series on chemical plants and their effects on nearby residents, and it ain't pretty. There's a fair bit of evidence suggesting that companies dramatically underreport their annual emissions. On top of that, accidental leaks -- or what the industry calls "fugitive emissions" -- are a major cause of chemical pollution and often much worse for human health than the more high-profile expected emissions. "Fugitives" are often closer to the ground where the wind is slower, which can allow greater concentrations to accumulate, and due to …

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Dirty Pretty Things

Two major cosmetic companies will omit harmful chemicals from products Revlon Inc. and L'Oreal USA have pledged to follow the European Union's relatively strict new anti-toxics rule in formulating their perfumes, hair dyes, makeup, and other products for sale in the U.S. The two companies were convinced to take the step by San Francisco's Breast Cancer Fund, which wants to shield Americans from a noxious soup of chemicals -- suspected of causing cancer, infertility, and birth defects -- commonly found in products applied directly to bare skin and scalps. The U.S. cosmetic sector is governed by an industry-financed review board, …

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Uncritical Mass

Anti-nuke opposition muted even as U.S. nuclear industry expands Opponents of nuclear power in the U.S. have been having a rough time of late attracting attention to their cause, even as the nuclear-power industry gears up to build five new reactors by 2015 and as many as 50 by 2050, with enthusiastic backing from the Bush administration. Concerns over high oil prices, enthusiasm over the prospect of nuke-plant jobs, and smart, targeted lobbying by nuke execs have combined to put the industry on its strongest footing in years. Generous new federal subsidies and the prospect of more in the near …

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Buy the Balls

Inauguration funded by industry; cynics jump to conclusions Yesterday we reported on an interview in which President Bush said that nuclear energy answers the "environmental issue" and the "dependency issue." Turns out it also partially answers the "incredibly expensive inauguration issue." The Nuclear Energy Institute, a lobbying group, is coughing up $100,000 for the lavish $40 million-plus affair, though that's small beans compared to the bucks being put up by a number of oil, gas, and mining companies. They join more than 100 interests (companies, trade associations, and individual executives), nearly all of which have benefited from the Bush administration's …

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Non-Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones

EPA finds possible risks in Teflon, will study further The U.S. EPA yesterday released the preliminary results of its inquiry into the health effects of a chemical used in making Teflon, saying it found "a potential risk of developmental and other adverse effects" but also that there are "significant uncertainties" in its assessment. The agency has called together a special panel for further study of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, an agent used to make fluoropolymers, which in turn are involved in the manufacture not only of Teflon but telephone cables, clothing, computer chips, carpets, and other consumer goods. Part of …

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How Green Is My Valley

Silicon Valley gets excited about clean-energy tech Rising oil prices and increasing competition from fast-developing countries like China have some energy entrepreneurs in California's tech-savvy Silicon Valley increasingly excited about the potential of good ol' American ingenuity to curb the world's addiction to fossil fuels -- and make a buck doing it. Companies like SunPower are working to make solar panels among the most efficient in the world, and Genencor expects to be able to make clean-burning plant-derived ethanol competitive with gasoline in three to five years. Bob Epstein, founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs, a Silicon Valley clean-technology group, sees the …

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Baby, You Can Drive My Car — In 2010

Lots more hybrids and hydrogen cars in the pipeline We begin with a public service announcement: Quit driving so damn much. Ride your bike. Take a bus. Walk. OK, with that out of the way, we turn to auto news, which is plentiful. Ford announced it would add four new hybrids to its lineup, at least one by the end of the year. GM announced that it would add two, both SUVs. GM also made a splash by unveiling the Sequel, a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered car with a range of 300 miles, something of a milestone in the hydrogen car biz. …

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Re-Bay

eBay joins tech companies to launch electronics recycling program Wondering what to do with that old Commodore 64 or Macintosh II gathering dust in your basement? According to an eBay survey, you're not alone -- some 50 percent of American households have unwanted PCs in storage. That's why the online auction giant has launched an electronics recycling program they call Rethink. In a partnership with environmental groups, postal services, and major tech names including IBM, Intel Corp., Apple Computers, and Hewlett-Packard, eBay will serve as a conduit for sales, donations, or recycling of old electronic equipment. Enviros hope the program …